Microsoft on Tuesday made its free Office Web Apps service available to consumers on Windows Live in the US, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, and Microsoft says more locales will be added in the coming months. Office Web Apps provides light versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote on the web, and works with the Windows Live SkyDrive storage service.

"Over the last few months, we've gotten incredible feedback from the hundreds of thousands of users in our Office Web Apps Technical Preview," Microsoft's Jason Moore wrote in a blog post announcing the release. "We've been busy incorporating much of that feedback, and today, Office Web Apps on SkyDrive are now available to everyone in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland."

Office Web Apps is aimed at Google Docs and other web-based office productivity suites. For the most part, it is the more compelling option, thanks to its familiar and powerful Office user interface and the deep hooks between these web apps, SkyDrive storage, and PC-based Office 2010 applications. However, Microsoft has also limited the web apps in some key ways, probably to prevent losing sales of its traditional applications. And this means that Office Web Apps can't really replace the PC-based Office for most users.

Office Web Apps was previously made available to Microsoft's business customers, which can optionally host a version of this service internally on SharePoint 2010. Consumers interested in the PC-based Office 2010 suite and applications will be able to purchase them beginning next week.

If you're interested in trying the Office Web Apps, they are available now at office.live.com. (This link should work outside the supported countries as well, but will be in US English.) You can read my review of the Office Web Apps on the SuperSite for Windows.